Trailer for Haunted in Venice/Forum Film
Score: One and a half stars out of five/Walla system!, Image processing
Six years ago, Kenneth Branagh presented Murder on the Orient Express, the first in his series of adaptations of Agatha Christie's classics. He directed, and also starred in the title role as Detective Hercule Poirot, flanked by a cast of stars and stars. It was a rather inferior film, remembered mainly for one of Johnny Depp's last Hollywood appearances, but it did well enough at the box office to guarantee a sequel - "Death on the Nile".
Even in that film, Branagh and his producers demonstrated an uncanny ability to get involved in terrible and/or failed castings. "Death on the Nile" is best remembered for the performance of Armie Hammer, who after filming turned out to be a sex offender. It was too late to cut it from the film, but the PR campaign hid it, and that was its final chord in Hollywood. Also appearing with him was Russell Brand, who this week came public against allegations of harassment and sexual assault of several women, including one who was 16 at the time.
Brand and Hammer's side, unlike thousands of distinctions, of course, also featured Gal Gadot, and "Death on the Nile" is best remembered for its mocking recitation that went viral. Still, the studio decided to produce a third film in the series. You can see why – these modern adaptations of Agatha Christie, terrible as they are, are products that don't hurt to have a streaming service's catalogue. They are based on a well-known brand, present a variety of attractive actors and appeal to an older audience, which usually finds it difficult to find what it wants nowadays.
Not another opera. From "Haunted in Venice"/Film Forum
The new chapter is called "Haunted in Venice", although it would be more appropriate to call it "Death in Venice" or "Dead of Boredom in Venice". It also features an impressive cadre of actors and actresses, but this time none of them are involved in an extraordinary scandal, and the film fails completely in its own right.
Unlike the two previous adaptations, published on two of Christie's most canonical writings, Haunted in Venice is based on one of her lesser-known songs, Hallowe'en Party, though this is only freely inspired, and the adaptation is very different from the original.
As its name implies, the film takes place in the beautiful Italian city that provides it with spectacular views. Poirot, again played by Branagh, wishes to retire, but then an old friend, a thriller writer played by Tina Fey, arrives and invites him to a Halloween party at the opera singer's mansion.
The singer lost her daughter in tragic circumstances, bringing to the party a celebrated medium, played by Michelle Yeoh, who won an Oscar this year for "Everything Everywhere All at Once." She hopes the guest will allow her to communicate with her deceased child. Poirot, for his part, plans to reveal that the caller is a crook. There are several other characters, including the diva's faithful maid, played by Camille Cotten, whom we've been seeing everywhere lately – including recently as the prime minister's personal secretary in Golda.
Death in Venice. From "Haunted in Venice"/Film Forum
Of course, the plans go awry, and one of the characters dies during the party. Now, Poirot must figure out who is responsible for this death, and along the way also try to find out the truth behind the death of the opera star's daughter.
Beyond relying on lesser-known Christie footage, the main difference between "Haunted in Venice" and "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" is in approach: the previous two films were classic detective thrillers and nothing more, but this film also adds elements of supernatural horror to the cauldron. It has the kind of séances, ghosts, bounces and scares you usually see in teenage horrors – some of the scenes are reminiscent of the recent horror hit "Murdered Touch."
On paper, it's an interesting and refreshing combination, but the film falls short in performance. Branagh's direction is heavy and cumbersome in general, and especially clumsy whenever he incorporates supernatural elements. The incorporation of mysticism into the plot does not seem organic, but remains ultimately a commercial gimmick, one that seeks to draw on the economic potential of horror, the most commercial genre in Hollywood at the moment, to bring the younger generation closer to Agatha Christie and to allow "Haunted in Venice" to be integrated into the "Halloween movies" category on streaming services.
As in the previous films, Branagh's display as Poirot is unbearable, with an unbearable and difficult to understand accent, and without a drop of self-awareness. I really find it hard to understand how such a Shakespearean actor, who is basically also such a talented director, who only recently produced a masterpiece like Belfast, wastes his talent and energy on such inferior projects.
Alongside the names already mentioned, the film also features Jamie Dornan and Judd Hill who starred in the same Belfast. No one leaves a mark here. The acting displays creak, and it's not the fault of the actors or actresses - after all, it was the same in the previous two episodes of the series. In other cases, "Haunted in Venice" using the names it has is simply outrageous. To take an actress like Michelle Yeoh, who is currently at an exciting peak in her career, and use her sparingly and poorly as is happening here is outrageous.
Coming soon: Fourth film in the series/Forum Film
There are interesting elements in the film. On another level, Poirot goes through a process here: he learns to understand that there are things in the world that are greater than his rationale, and learns to love detective work again. The solution of the mystery also contains a powerful tragedy, though it is not particularly convincing, and ultimately enjoys placing the blame on the constant scapegoat of culture and society – more than that we will not add, of course.
The film's many flaws ultimately defeat its few virtues, and it turns out to be an unpleasant experience, complementing one of the most horrifying cinematic trilogies of recent years. I really would rather watch Guy Hochman perform in front of the coalition members than watch one of these films again, or, God forbid, all three together. The bad news is that Christie has left behind over a hundred novellas and short stories, so it's likely not the last time Branagh adapts one of her writings.
- More on the subject:
- Kenneth Branagh
- Agatha Christie